Top 10: Players of France 98

2. Ronaldo, Brazil

Would Brazil have won the 1998 World Cup but for whatever happened to Ronaldo before the final? Perhaps France, on home soil, had sufficient sense of their own destiny to have stopped them in the final, but it would surely have been far harder for them than it eventually proved.

Ronaldo after the knee injury was an excellent player; before it he was a phenomenon, an astonishing blend of pace, power and skill capable of mesmerising goalkeepers with a couple of swift step-overs. Only 21 going into the Finals, he'd been a key reason Brazil had gone a record 45 games unbeaten before a shock defeat to Norway in 1997, and was superb in the tournament.

A low volley against Morocco was his only strike of the group stage, as Brazil slowly found their rhythm, but Ronaldo burst into life against Chile in the second round, hitting post and bar and scoring twice. He set up two in Brazil’s 3-2 defeat of Denmark, then scored in the 1-1 semi-final draw against the Netherlands. And then, shortly before the final, he had a fit and was withdrawn from the starting line-up. Although mysteriously restored to it, he wandered round in a daze.


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